“You don’t know you love it until you see it!” said a customer recently upon entering Marvelous Matter, the charming new shop at 33 West Broad Street in Hopewell. Then, she added, “And what you see here is all eye candy! Every time you turn around something else catches your attention.”
Indeed, creativity, imagination, and innovation are on display at this special shop. Owners Susan and Scott Mulhern have presented an intriguingly eclectic display of antiques and collectibles, including furniture, glassware, jewelry, artwork, toys, and general miscellany.
“We like to think we offer beautiful things that were beautifully made, and that are presented in a beautiful setting. That is the focus of the shop,” observe the Mulherns.
Formerly located in The Tomato Factory, the store opened the doors to its new home in July. “We wanted a larger space, and this was available,” says Ms. Mulhern, who is a painter and potter, with a masters degree in ceramics. “I had grown up with antiques. My grandmother was a collector, and I collected as an adult. I had many items, and when we opened the shop in The Tomato Factory, that gave me permission to shop!”
Ms. Mulhern comes by her visual perspective naturally, she explains. “I got my good eye from my mother, who had a degree in fashion design. She knew quality and construction. Growing up, I learned about good quality.”
Gathering the collection over the years has been both exciting and satisfying for both of the owners. Before opening the store, Mr. Mulhern was engaged in a series of professions in which he was often exposed to a variety of intriguing collectibles. An actor, yoga instructor, and award-winning wallpaper hanger, he had many opportunities to view items of interest. Now he travels the east coast in search of new additions for the shop.
He also finds time to do I Ching Chinese Interpretive Life readings, and he is a published author of prose and Haiku poetry.
“We specialize in everything at the shop,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and basically, we buy things we like. The idea is if we like it, maybe the customers will like it too. We also try to listen to what people are looking for. For example, someone wanted model boats, especially sailboats that were well-made and crafted. Someone else came in looking for a window settee, and other customers wanted a certain kind of lamp or game table or other items. They’ll all come in with something in mind, and then they’ll see things they didn’t expect to find. And then they can come upon that really singular item.”
Mr. Mulhern adds that items are acquired from many sources, including church thrift shops, estate sales, auctions, etc. The Mulherns also accept items on consignment. Customers may send a photo via email, or bring in the item. The pricing arrangement is 60 percent for the customer, 40 percent for the store.
And everything seems to be popular. Tramp art, kitchen glass, carnival glass, and jewelry are all in demand, as is the furniture selection.
“There is a trend toward mid-century furniture now, and people always want antique furniture,” says Ms. Mulhern. “They like old things because so often, they are made better. We tend to admire things that stand the test of time, and there is an artistry to these items and a history. Who had them before? Where did the people live? What did they do? These pieces all have a story.”
“There’s nothing like authenticity,” points out Mr. Mulhern, “and then the history of the piece will continue with the new owner.”
The furniture selection includes several Eastlake items (an American style of furniture especially popular from 1870 to 1890). A wonderful ladies’ upholstered chair, made especially for a woman’s configuration, and noted for being extremely comfortable, is a highlight.
Another Eastlake piece is a maple roll-top desk dating to 1870, which is accented with burled elm wood. A handsome oak chest dates to the late 1800s, and also available are a mahogany high boy, a credenza, and a versatile game table, which folds against the wall when not in use.
Sense of Fun
In one of the store’s windows, a charming display features chairs arranged in descending order according to size, including two small doll chairs. Assorted baskets adorn the chairs, and on one a little doll perches engagingly.
“The idea is always to bring in the child to the adult. Add a sense of fun and whimsy,” explains Ms. Mulhern. ‘For example, we’ll have a very sophisticated item and put a little doll or toy next to it. This is unexpected and creates interest.”
Another window display features a large tomb rubbing on canvas of a knight in full regalia overlooking a pair of Windsor chairs. The window displays are changed frequently, point out the Mulherns. Customers will always find an inviting presentation of a new selection.
Boxes, baskets, and bowls are very popular at the shop, and some of these represent Tramp Art, which originated in in the late 1800s, says Ms. Mulhern. “It started in Europe, especially France, Germany, and Holland, and then came to the U.S., and continued into the 1930s. It was made by unschooled artists, who used boxes and baskets, often cigar boxes. It has a textured or chipped effect and some are also painted. It was done by people who rode the trains, rode the rails.”
Another area very popular with collectors is carnival glass. “This is hand-blown and then pressed, and was originally given away at carnivals,” she notes. “It dates from the early 1900s, and can include dishes, bowls, glasses, etc., and it is often iridescent.
“Kitchen glass also originated in the early 1900s, and is another favorite item. It is very durable, and will outlast anything made in China today.”
The presentation of items in the store is one of the delights of visiting Marvelous Matter. Surprises are everywhere. A 1920s wooden playing card holder reverses to a cribbage board, and sitting next to it is a Thai Buddha. In the corner, a king-size wooden toy soldier in bright red painted jacket stands watch, and nearby are three hollow copper balls in assorted sizes, which make a perfect garden ornament. On top of a shelf is a baby cradle, also a vintage washtub, and across the aisle is a very special hand-painted Tibetan Thangka. On another wall, a beautiful 1920s German tapestry is displayed, and a large wooden screen can serve as both a decorative and functional piece.
Whether customers are looking for picture frames, paper weights, antique sterling silver scissors, or carpets, they will find all of these and so much more, and with prices everywhere from $10 up to $1000s.
“There is so much to know about a specific area, and I get so interested in groups of things that I research everything about them,” reports Ms. Mulhern. “I just love this. I like to look at beautiful things and be around them. And I love accumulating the collection. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the surprises when you come across something you never expected to find.”
Adds Mr. Mulhern: “We have done so many things in our lives, and we thought how can we present the beautiful things we’ve seen, known, and experienced, and put them in this store so that it satisfies us and everyone who comes into the shop.”
Marvelous Matter is open Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday and Friday 11 to 8, Sunday 11:30 to 5. (609) 466-1972. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.